In habitat restoration, baseline data collection is often treated as a time consuming and expensive formality that is too frequently given only a minimal level of effort before the “real work” begins. Wapato Valley Mitigation and Conservation Bank (Wapato Valley Bank) has taken a novel approach in mitigation resource development by creating a multispecies/multi-habitat mitigation bank. The Bank will restore, rehabilitate, enhance, and preserve 876 acres of wetland, salmonid, and oak woodland habitats by removing anthropogenic constraints on the landscape and restoring natural floodplain processes to generate mitigation credits. To increase the certainty of success, Wapato Valley Bank set a standard of long-term planning, and in investing in a more extensive effort in preliminary data collection. Monitoring methods need not be elaborate or expensive, and a surprising amount of data can be obtained through the use of simple but elegant techniques. We reviewed an extensive historical image library of the site, and used photopoints, time lapsed and motion sensed photography and videography to capture past and present hydrology and biodiversity data. We installed temperature and pressure data loggers in key restoration locations to capture detailed hydroperiod information in areas slated for reconnection to tidal and riverine processes. Finally, a field staff of four, including interns, conducted topographic, vegetation, fish and wildlife surveys over the course of two years to amass a solid baseline of ecological information on the site.
The Wapato Valley Bank has set standards for a new type of environmental service bank where multiple credit options are made available on a single site. A strong body of data led to a number of happy consequences, including; (1) Facilitating and expediting the certification process conducted by an interagency review team (2) A stronger and more strategic restoration design (3) A reduction of unforeseen impacts to unique flora and fauna (4) Higher confidence in our ability to show real change over time, and (5) A knowledge base to provide long term viability and possible future credit generating opportunities. This example shows that a strong baseline is imperative to allowing responsive restoration actions and informed adaptive management in the practice of ecologically sound process based habitat restoration.